As temperatures drop, calls for roadside assistance rise

WASHINGTON — Extreme cold strands thousands of local motorists who sometimes endure long waits to get help from inundated roadside assistance programs.

“We probably have 10 times the normal requests for service,” said Bruce Jenkins, the AAA Mid-Atlantic Club Fleet Operations manager based in Springfield, Virginia. “It takes its toll and I’m sure people understand that this isn’t the norm.”

On Wednesday and Thursday, AAA received a total of 9,430 calls for help from motorists in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Jenkins said Club Fleet Operations prioritize motorists in more dire situations, meaning that response would be quicker to someone stranded in a vehicle alongside a road versus a breakdown in a shopping mall parking lot or outside a relative’s home.

Trying to get a tow from Springfield to Alexandria on Wednesday evening, AAA customer Albert Shimabukuro was a lower priority for response because he was someplace safe.

Upon calling for help, Shimabukuro said a recorded message initially stated he would have to wait five hours for a tow truck to arrive.

“Due to high call volume, services would be delayed and it would be 300 minutes,” Shimabukuro recalled the message stating.

But he got taken care of quicker than he expected.

Number and type of calls received by AAA Mid-Atlantic on Jan. 3, 2018. (Courtesy Mid-Atlantic)

“It took about four and half hours from the time I called to get the car towed back to my place.”

The issue with Shimabukuro’s car ended up being a faulty alternator.

In case you get stranded by a breakdown, Jenkins recommends you stock your car with emergency supplies such clothes, a blanket and snacks.

In this extreme weather, Jenkins said, it’s a good idea to always have a full gas tank and a fully charged cellphone.

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